Quid Pro “No”

On 9/27/2010 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) musicians published a statement at their website offering up speculation on why conductor JoAnn Faletta withdrew from conducting their self produced concerts on 10/3/2010 and 10/10/2010. According to the musicians, Faletta had “graciously agreed to conduct…donating her services during their labor dispute with management” but shortly thereafter Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI) president Tim Fox, the agency that represents Faletta, told the musicians Faletta would have to withdraw…

The DSO musicians provide a lengthy explanation behind why they believe the decision was based primarily on CAMI’s desire to defend against retribution against their client and to protect the agencies’ bottom line.

“Could it be that CAMI needs to protect its burgeoning relationship with the DSO’s management and their resulting associated income?  Allowing Ms. Falletta to perform alongside, and in sympathy with, the musicians of the Detroit Symphony might cause her to be blacklisted. Not only might the DSO’s management not hire her in the future but the managements of other orchestras might follow suit, reducing both her income, and CAMI’s income, for years to come.” – DSO musicians website, 10/27/2010.

Currently, the DSO musicians have two other concerts planned, each featuring an established conductor. The 10/10/2010 concert features West Virginia Symphony Orchestra music director Grant Cooper and the 10/24/2010 features former Utah Symphony Orchestra music director and Detroit native, Joseph Silverstein.

What do you think; do conductors and soloists put their careers at risk if they take part in musician organized concerts connected to labor disputes? Is speculation of the kind offered up by the DSO musicians legitimate or an attempt to elicit sympathy? Post a comment or send in an email message with your thoughts and observations.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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9 thoughts on “Quid Pro “No””

  1. Today’s post brings to mind Junichi Hirokami, the Music Director of the Columbus Symphony who was a strong and outspoken advocate for the musicians during their labor dispute and was then dismissed by management. Obviously the Columbus Symphony management and Hirokami held two different views of how that organization should develop. Hirokami effectively fulfilled his responsibility as Music Director to be the chief advocate for the artistic integrity of the organization.

    • The Hirokami example is an interesting point Tim and one that certainly reinforces the real – and legitimate – authority afforded to any board of directors that all of the artistic and executive leaders serve at the pleasure of the board.

      As a result, the responsibility for boards to enact their duties and responsibilities without undue emotional influence has always been challenging and the current cycle of economic challenges can make that responsibility even more demanding.

  2. “…do conductors and soloists put their careers at risk if they take part in musician organized concerts connected to labor disputes?”

    If they do, the fact that any “risk” involved – the “risk”, I assume, being that one could face retaliation in some form, be it a sudden drop in engagements, etc – says more about our industry than anything else.

    Sadly, while the fact that the underhanded, back-stabbing retaliatory actions that are alluded to in the post are (upon hearing about them) reprehensible at best, we have to accept that actions such as those described have taken place.

    • thanks Sam, in all fairness to everyone involved, there have been no official accusations etc. However, it would likely go a long way if Ms. Faletta and/or her representation went so far as to offer a simple statement indicating why she had to cancel.

      Everyone understands this is a highly charged situation and as such, imaginations may run wild so it could go a long way if anyone associated with either/both sides in the conflict took the time to be very transparent.

  3. I want to take a moment to make it clear that in no way does today’s post insinuate or verify any of the DSO musicians claims.I have not contacted anyone at CAMI, Ms. Faletta, the DSO, or the DSO musicians for a statement. the piece simply reports what the DSO musicians have asserted.

    However, any of those parties are more than welcome to contact me or post a comment which I will be happy to either publish or incorporate into the post above as an addendum.

  4. This is definitely NOT the first time that a conductor risked a “blackball” by the DSO management. I believe it around 1975 that the late Mitch Miller, who conducted a concert for the musicians when they were on strike, was not hired by the DSO management for years. This has been the modus operandi for the DSO management for too many years. Pretty disgusting.

  5. I’m sorry, but the musicians’ suggestion, that CAMI would risk $600K in commissions by not withdrawing Faletta just doesn’t make sense. Is it possible that Faletta would be blacklisted? I guess it is; I certainly don’t know enough to say. But could all the other mentioned CAMI artists also be blacklisted? Including Lang Lang and Slatkin himself? No. Are conductors and soloists engaged on the basis of their management? No. They are engaged on the basis of their talent, availability, and reputation.

    • That’s an interesting point and one worth examining. Clearly, certain artists are above and beyond concerns of blow-back, direct or otherwise. We’ve seen artists at this level participate during labor disputes over the decades. One case that comes to mind is Neeme Jarvi (Detroit’s former music director) conducting the Philly and New York Phil orchestras during their strikes back in the 90s. At the same time, the list of guest artist untouchables is certainly a minority fraction of all guest artists.

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